By Emil Danielyan
U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch called on the Armenian authorities on Friday to ensure that the upcoming municipal elections in Yerevan are democratic.
Yovanovitch discussed the conduct of the May 31 elections of the municipal council at a meeting with parliament speaker Hovik Abrahamian.
A statement by the Armenian parliament’s press service quoted her as saying that the polls will mark an “important phase” in Armenia’s long transition to democracy. “She expressed hope that equal conditions will be put in place for all [election] contenders and that administrative resources will not be used,” the statement said.
The United States has criticized just about every major election held in Armenia since independence for reported irregularities benefiting government-backed candidates. The U.S. State Department described the most recent Armenian presidential ballot held in February 2008 as “significantly flawed.” It also expressed serious concern about the post-election government crackdown on the opposition.
According to the statement, Abrahamian also “stressed the importance of a fair and transparent conduct of the [municipal] elections.” He said the National Assembly will do its best to “rule out violations and create equal possibilities for everyone.”
Abrahamian managed President Serzh Sarkisian’s 2008 election campaign in his then capacity as deputy prime minister. He was also the campaign manager of Sarkisian’s Republican Party of Armenia in the May 2007 parliamentary elections.
The Armenian opposition considers him one of the main organizers of serious fraud reported during both elections. Abrahamian and other top government officials insist, however, that the polls were largely free and fair.
The parliament statement said Abrahamian and Yovanovitch also spoke about Turkish-Armenian relations and the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “Agreeing with Mr. Abrahamian’s views, the U.S. ambassador opined that if there is anyone who can eliminate the rift between [Armenian] political forces, improve Turkish-Armenian relations and contribute to a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, it is President Sarkisian,” it added.